The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. This is notable because the Lakers have won two consecutive NBA championships and because, until last Friday, the Cavaliers had lost an NBA record 26 consecutive games. David versus Goliath? No. This is like the Beverly Hills Chihuahuas defeating Godzilla with a potato gun. And, as American sports fans who champion the little guy, that tickles us to no end.
It felt a little differently for suffering Cavaliers fans. SB Nation's Fear The Sword led with a headline that reads, "Cavaliers Shock Lakers, Prove Heart And Determination Still Matter In NBA." What catharsis a win like that must have felt like for Cavs fans, who just a year ago had the NBA's best team, best player and best chance at a championship. The fall from glory has been swift and devastating; one victory over the champs erased all the trauma, if only for a night.
But for those counting out the Lakers after this defeat? Look at the circumstances for just a moment.
- The stop in Cleveland was the Lakers' final game in a seven-game road trip. The last game in a long road trip is known as the "get-away game" for a reason -- players, who are usually human*, seek the creature comforts of home, and it might be understood if relief at the end of a road trip begets premature relaxation, or in the case of Ron Artest, laxation. (* Note: does not apply to Kobe Bryant.)
- The last game before the All-Star break in the NBA is like a super-duper get-away game. Many of the Lakers will be hanging around L.A. for the festivities. Kobe and Pau Gasol will be in the big show. Ron-Ron will be throwing untold numbers of parties. But the lesser players/playas? Bahamas, Jamaica, Hawai'i. Are you telling me you work as hard as ever on your last day before a vacation?
- The Lakers are older than the average NBA team; as such, a lack of rest hurts them. The Lakers played their third game in four nights against Cleveland. It was also their fifth game in seven nights. That's a back-to-back, one day off, another back-to-back, another day off and a super-duper get-away game. The first three games in that stretch were to sure-bet playoff teams (one of them an elite rival).
- If there's one crucial weakness on the Lakers' roster, it's point guard defense. Surprise! Ramon Sessons lit them up for 32 points. The issue is not a surprise to anyone, especially the Lakers.
So, friends, let us celebrate Wednesday's result not as a total indictment of the Lakers, but instead as the wonderful spiritual victory Cavaliers fans deserve. Huzzah, Cleveland!